ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - 56

TECHNICAL FEATURE

Exploring Possible
Issues with Energy Code
Plug Load Assumptions
BY MOHAMED OUF, PH.D., P.ENG., ASSOCIATE MEMBER ASHRAE; GUY NEWSHAM

Building energy codes and standards are regularly updated to raise the minimum
allowed efficiency of HVAC or building envelope systems. These updates can substantially
decrease loads in newer buildings but may increase the contribution of occupant-related
end uses to overall building energy consumption. Despite this issue, occupant-related
end uses are typically treated with simple, fixed assumptions in most energy codes and
standards. This article investigates the effect of occupant-related plug load assumptions
on the results of building simulations of existing buildings that comply with recent
versions of the Canadian National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB).
In Canada, two standards are typically used to provide guidelines for building performance simulations:
(NECB)1 and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2019,2 which is
used in specific contexts (e.g., for LEED certifications).
These standards outline densities and schedules (diversity factors) for occupant-related end uses based on
building type, which can affect overall building energy
consumption in two ways: 1) by directly influencing
electricity consumption due to using plug-in equipment or light fixtures and 2) by influencing heating and
cooling loads due to associated heat addition (internal
gains).
Given their effect on overall building energy consumption, it is critical to ensure estimates of occupant-related
end uses in building simulations are representative,

especially in newer energy codes and standards that are
expected to meet net zero energy performance targets.
Furthermore, the effect of new societal trends, such as
the increase in remote working, on occupant-related end
uses should be considered, especially since these trends
are expected to last beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specific objectives of the study discussed in this article
focus on 1) reviewing the literature on plug load use
in existing buildings, and the development of related
schedules and equipment power densities (EPD) in the
NECB and Standard 90.1, and 2) testing the sensitivity of
building simulations complying with different energy
code versions to plug load assumptions.
The scope of this work covered building simulations compliant with three different versions of NECB

Mohamed Ouf, Ph.D., P.Eng., is an assistant professor in Building Engineering at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. Guy Newsham is a senior research officer at the National
Research Council Canada.
56

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ASHRAE Journal - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - March 2021

Contents
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Intro
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Cover1
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Contents
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